>> and on "after words," -- >> the book follows these two muslim women of about the same age who became complete opposites, and it tries to sort of tell the story of the war on terror through their stories. >> deborah scroggins looks at islam and the war on terror from "wanted women." sunday night at 9 p.m. eastern. ashraf khalil talks about the january 2011 egyptian revolution and what has happened in that country over the past year. it's about an hour, 15 minutes. >> welcome, everybody. [inaudible] [inaudible conversations] >> we're glad to see everyone here. we have c-span taping this event.
we will begin with a conversation. we have with us, first, let me introduce myself, i'm leyla halal directing the middle east task force here, and we have with us today two very distinguished guests, and we're very excited to have this conversation at such a timely period in egypt's history as we see from the news that it continues to face turmoil and upheaval. to my left is rob malley. he's currently the middle east and north africa program director at the international crisis group. he really probably needs no introduction for those of you here, um, who are based in d.c. but prior to his tenure at the icg, he was special assistant to president clinton for arab/israeli affairs, and he was the executive assistant to
samuel berger as national security adviser from 1996-1998. he is published widely, he is a leading analyst on middle east affairs, and we're very glad to have him with us today. um, to my right is ashraf khalil, not from washington. um, and a fresh voice for us in d.c. um, he is a cairo-based journalist, and he's been covering the middle east for saw years -- 15 years. he was a correspondent with the los angeles times and covering baghdad and jerusalem, based in both places. [inaudible] he has previously reported for "the wall street journal", um, foreign policy and the times of london and the economist as well. he is a blogger at the very popular "the arabist" which was founded by cassandra el rani.
so we are here largely to launch ashraf's new book. it was published just last month. we have copies outside. it's entitled "inside the egyptian revolution and the rebirth of a nation: liberation square," an emotive cover. this book has been received to quite critical acclaim. it was noted it was perfectly calibrated in its amount of background commentary and prognostication, and above all a thrilling account. publishers' week described it as an essential read evoking the urgency and vitality of the arab spring's egyptian chapter. and the daily beast noted that it paints a full canvas of the domination built by mubarak's police state. so we have copies of the book
that will be arriving, and afterwards ashraf is available to sign and chat with you further as, i think, rob has to leave immediately. but we will try to cover as much ground as we can in the discussion. just to begin with you, ashraf, your book sort of sweeps through three decades of mubarak's rule before going into tracking the 18 days of revolt. and then you close with some commentary on the key transitional challenges ahead which are economic corruption, media freedom and security reform. and you, i think with the developments in egypt in the past 48 hours there's clearly a very current conversation to have about egypt, and i think events are changing quite quickly. but i think it's also important to keep track and to note, um, what led up to this revolution.
in your book you -- and just to note, you've been based in cairo for -- >> since 1997. >> for 15 years. which means you didn't just land in cairo on january 25, 2011. so you, obviously, saw this lead-up, and you describe in your book the increasing stranglehold of the regime and then the agitation of people on the ground towards it. um, and i remember that as the tunisian dick todayer fell, and -- dictator fell. did this surprise you? >> immediately after tunisia, there was a lot of chatter in egypt. the activist forces there were openly trying to figure out how to make the same thing happen and trying to lay the ground
work for a similar uprising. but you heard so much, oh, that can't happen here. i remember talking to on the 26th, actually, the day after the start of the revolution when you had these unprecedented numbers turning out and really taking the country into unchartered waters, i remember just get anything a cab and wanting to go to tahrir and having, like, the classic cynical cab driver who was basically like, oh, no, we can't do what tunisians did. few news ya's a civilled country. even then egyptians did not believe they could pull this off. and i think one of the stories of the mubarak regime was with, is that it -- people kind of lost faith in themselves. he really killed the sense of political engagement l and really sowed this feeling of
helplessness in the people. he wasn't gadhafi. there will be no maas graves -- mass graves being unearthed in egypt. but he really sort of killed their spirit, and it took a while. but, i mean, people just lost faith in themselves. and so one of the -- immediately before the revolution started, the arab league had a summit, an economic summit, and it was right after tunisia and right before egypt. and egyptians were starting to set themselves on fire. you had that very disturbing little mini trend happening in e ji.. and -- egypt. and all the arab league delegates were like, oh, no, it's not possible. this is not tunisia. everybody had a reason why the example could not be repeated. and the one guy who was off message, i give him credit for this, was moussa. he's supposed to be in lockstep with these guys, and i was shocked by the quotes i got from him. he was basically saying, no,
this is a wake-up call. there's things that really need to change. you know, this could spread. we have to be very careful. we have to sort of acknowledge the people will not be mar -- marginalized anymore, i remember the quote vividly. >> but this resistance certainly did not, it wasn't a sense that people suddenly on january 25th or what was the date when ben ali fell? >> almost exactly two weeks before, so on the 11th. >> it wasn't that date that people realized they have a grievance towards the regime, and it wasn't either that they hadn't tried to express themselves. i mean, there were events leading up to the revolution that enabled it eventually to begin. you could say that few news ya was a catalyst in a sense, but it wasn't the sole reason for the uprising in egypt.
>> it certainly wasn't the sole reason, it wasn't the reason that people had grievances. it wasn't the reason that people felt the need to have a revolution. but it did open the door of what was possible. you know? it broke, it chipped -- it didn't break it. they broke it on the 25th, i think, but it really chipped away at the sense of helplessness that had taken hold over the previous decade plus in egypt. so just seeing that it was possible really changed the game. but, obviously, going back you have so many bad elections, you have so many cases of rampant police brutality and corruption. the case of the young man who was beaten to death in alexandria in june 2010 and whose name became just a touchstone for the lawlessness and unchecked brutality of the interior might ministry under m. that was wig. and i -- that was big. i try to mark out here was a
turning point and here was a turning point. but i still maintain without tunisia, it does not happen like this, and it does not happen on this timeline without the tunisians setting an example. >> i'm going to ask you to read just quickly a passage from your book, the start of the first chapter which is entitled "the accidental dictator." i think this chapter quite, um, amusingly and humorously tells sort of the story and the attitude from the beginning of the chapter. >> sure. >> um, of the attitude of the people and perhaps now what's in their mind as they face their current struggle. >> this is chapter one, it's called "the accidental dictator." imagine for a moment that president george i had suddenly died -- president george bush i
had suddenly died in office. then imagine that near he three decades later that same perceived lightweight was still running the country, that an entire generation of americans had never known any other leader, that he and marilyn quayle were building libraries after themselves and that the president was seemingly grooming one of his children to continue the family business of running the country. if that seems farfetched, it's not too far from the reality that egyptians have been living through for nearly three decades. put simply, hosni mubarak's era as egypt's modern day pharoah was never supposed to happen. one of the core ironies of mubarak's 29-year death grip on egypt was that he stumbled into what was probably the most important and influential job in the modern middle east entirely by accident. it's a reality that became abundantly clear from the very
beginning of the 18-day uprising in the winter of 2011 that final toppled mubarak. once protesters succeeded in shattering the police state that had kept him in power, it became immediately clear that there really was no plan b. mubarak's regime many in its final days fell back on a parade of insincere rhetoric, uninspired and tone-deaf concessions, and finally, one last effort at vicious violence in a desperate attempt to retain control. it all served to underscore that hiding behind the tear gas of the central security riot police was an intellectually bankrupt and cynical blank space of a regime. that's why there was a distinct undercurrent of bitterness and shame mixed in with the euphoria and the resurgent sense of empowerment coarsing through the cairo streets that february when mubarak meekly left the stage. the sentiment was something approaching i can't believe we let these guys run our lives for
decades. >> thank you. i think that sort of speaks to the sentiment of revolution and the -- when there's mass mobilization, that mobilization sort of carries, creates a dynamic that creates sort of an unstoppable movement towards a new reality. and i think that, you know, we saw that in e egypt the quick fall of the regime. but we also condition travis it with a -- contrast it with a place like syria where uprising and clear public statements from the arab league and the u.s. and other major players force the regime to go, it still holds
tightly to power. and i wonder, you know, what in these revolutions is the tipping point? be what makes the difference in terms of changing the dynamic on the ground to confront such entrenched power? and you were in tahrir for those 1 days. so -- 18 days. so in your observation at what point did the balance of power change? what was the tipping point? >> i think, i think there was multiple, small tipping points with tunisia as the final shove over the cliff. i mean, i think you had, you know, multiple years of the relationship between the police, the interior min try and its relationship to the citizens became toxic maybe 10, 15 years back and just stayed that way, and you had so many cases of that. the economic situation is an underreported, possibly, element
of this in that, you know, seeing not just how much harder life became as costs went up and salaries stayed the same, but seeing the top 5%, obviously, flourishing so well. and, obviously, seemingly operating under a completely different set of rules than everybody else was operating under. that played a role. you know, the november 2010 parliamentary elections was just such a clear slap in the face that, you know, that just showed, you know, the ballot stuffing was so over the top that it just showed that the government was regressing as much as anything. and one of my, i mean, this is kind of a corollary to the economic situation in that because of the economy, because of the lack of jobs you had successive generations of young men who had no hope of ever getting married. they couldn't find a good job.
university degrees, 28 years old, 35 years old, nothing, you know, the only jobs available were ones that didn't pay them enough to make it even worth getting out of bed. which means they can never move out of their parents' homes, never get married and start their life. i actually think one of the underreported aspects of this is how much pure sexual frustration played into the revolution, you had generations that could never start their lives, never afford to get married. >> and you talk about that in the book. you note this cultural film -- >> yes. >> you know, it's a humorous, slap-stick comedy that these guys are trying to find a place to watch a porno film because they're living at home, they're in their late 20s, but because they can't get married, they can't find a place to be alone, they can't have sex, they
can't -- so they're stuck. but, you know, what is humorous is actually poignant because it tells the story of the frustration -- >> and i met guys on the protest lines who might as well have been characters on that film. they graduated, they have a good degree, but they don't have any influence. their father couldn't hook them up with a job or didn't have an apartment waiting for them to get married in. the so they're just 28 at home. and that's their life. >> but have these people returned to their homes? are they still in the street? because we're hearing of continued demonstrations and protests, but we're also being told of this silent majority which doesn't support the protesters. and the protesters are in the minority. so where are these frustrated youth? are they just, are they just, are they sort of overcome by a sense of pessimism, or do they desire to just return to normality?
you know, has the revolution become sort of a marginalized effort despite the continuing need for change and reforms? >> that's a good question. i mean, some of these youth are still out there protesting, and many of them have gone home. and the issue of whether to continue street action is a very divisive issue, as you said, in egypt. the november and december clashes, you know, two separate outbreaks of violence that were, like, in and around the electoral cycle. it was bizarre. you would have massive violence and people dying and people losing eyes, and a week later -- five days later and three blocks away you'd have a polling place open with a line down the block. and then a week later there'd be massive violation on that same stretch of street. it was surreal. but i think you're right in that those protesters especially, in november and december, were hugely unpopular. i can honestly say they did not
represent the majority of egyptians. but if you ask the protesters, they're totally fine with being in the minority. they think they were in the minority a year ago, you know? they think the phrase that you hear in arabic all the time is -- [speaking in native tongue] the party of the couch which is their derisive term for the silence majority of finance sitters that -- fence sitters that, basically, came out to join the party on february 11th, you know, after this 10%, 15% hard core minority did all the hard work for them. i mean, i'm speaking, i'm just telling you what they're thinking. so they know they're in the minority at this point, and they're totally fine with that. >> all right. so, rob, i'm just going to bring you in now. and i think, you know, we -- you were in egypt in december and january, and you had the opportunity to meet with a crosssection of political actors, and you have your own sense of what's going on there on the ground.
recently, in the past 48 hours, we've seen the demonstrations have sort of been renewed and there is a bloc of activists and be liberal parties that have come out with a platform for the military to turn over executive powers to an elected civilian president. and, in fact, you know, my sense from reading the news is that there's an effort to sort of build public consensus around this demand for the military to hand over power. but the military is resisting this, and the understanding is that they want to maintain control over the drafting of the constitution and to build in protections of their major interests. and yet when the protesters attempted to advance on the parliament, interestingly, i think, to hand their demand for transfer of civilian power to
this new elected body, the muslim brotherhood, um, blocked, blocked that event. and be so what i'm wondering is are we facing the counterrevolution in egypt? you know, is there an effort now to solidify the new reality which people in the streets, um, feel is not consistent with their original demands for, um, empowerment, dignity, i don't know, civil liberties given the interim period where they've cracked down violently on demonstrators and asserted itself in a way that indicates that it wants to retain its prior control over the economy, over, um, sort of foreign affairs? is in the counterrevolution --
is in this the counterrevolutio? >> when you insist that ashraf is outside washington, you sort of depict me as a newt gingrich -- [laughter] secondly, i highly recommend you all read the week which is extremely -- the book which is extremely informative and entertaining. first, you make the comparison between egypt and syria. i think there's one element which has been decisive in a number of these cases which is what's the attitude of the security forces. i mean, in egypt you could make the argument that it was both a revolution and a military coup, and it's unclear which of those two was more important when. military coup may be piggybacking on a popular uprising and trying to perpetuate mubarak without mubarak. whether they'll succeed, i think s a different matter, but that's part of the reason why things went so quickly. in syria i view no such chance.
you can't have the current regime surviving by ce posing the -- deposing the power structure. they may try, but i think it's much harder to do because they feel like once he go -- all these cases one of the key determining factors is how is the security apparatus constituted, what is its nature and what's its relationship with the regime. second point, and you mentioned the counterrevolution, that's the title of the article that i wrote several months ago. one of the points we make in the piece is that the egyptian revolution in particular was sort of an anti-leninist revolution. yes, ashraf is right in that there were people organizing it, but there was no pure leadership, there was no ideology behind it. there was not a program. you didn't have the communist manifesto, you didn't have -- >> right. >> it was even like the iranian revolution in that sense which was an extraordinarily powerful
tribute, attribute of the uprising because it was almost impossible for the regime to tackle. they were much better prepared to deal with a violent uprising than they were with this because they didn't know how to go after it. but the strength of the revolution, i think, in many ways was a weakness after mubarak was toppled because you didn't have a party constituency and agenda. and i think that brings me to your main question which is what is today the power of these protesters, and why is it that you have this tension between those in tahrir square and others? maybe the silent majority. you know, when i was in egypt, a lot of the conversations i had revolved around that, and i think -- i agree with ashraf that a lot of people on the street don't really care if they're minority and believe they were minority then. something has changed. there's been an election, and a number of the egyptians i spoke to even who might have been sympathetic to the revolution at the time said, wait a minute, we
just had an election. i'm going to come up with a number, maybe i'm exaggerating, maybe i'm underestimating, but i think 80% of those represented in congress today agreed if you have elections and a constitution, it's going to have to be through referendum, then there's going to be a constitution, and then the military's going to have to cede power. most of the people represented in parliament believe that that's okay. and then you have demonstrators who didn't perform particularly well in the elections who are calling for another trajectory, another timetable. it's hard today for them to have in the long term the legitimacy they had even as a minority during the revolution when you now have a legitimate process -- i mean, with faultses and what not -- but a legitimate process that people put in power are prepared to live with the timetable that was agreed. i think that's a real problem now for the people --
>> big distinction, you're right. >> i'm sorry? >> big distinction, you're right. >> i think over time that legitimacy's going to erode. it will revive when the politicians are put in to deal with the political transition, the security. right now i think they have to make a calculation which is how do we maintain legitimacy when most egyptians who voted seem to have voted for something different. and i think the muslim brotherhood has been very clever so far in managing a complex sort of triangle relationship between itself and the protesters, and their view is, i think, to say to the protesters we agree what you're calling for, but right now there's a political process which is why they formed this human shield to prevent the protesters from gaining access to the parliament. um, i think it's going to be a very interesting game now between where i see those three
actors. all three of them sort of playing blind chess because, actually, worse than blind chess. they don't know how the other parties are going to act because it's a new game. they don't even really know how they're going to act, because it's a new game for them as well. >> ashraf, can you comment a bit and tell us how you see the relationship between the calf and the miss -- scaf and the muslim brotherhood? i know i've heard you say that the street has been able to extract concessions, and you see that as an important dynamic. but what is the sustainability of those protests given that you have the elected parliament, given that people just want to see, you know, real change on the ground? um -- >> well, i do believe that one of the, if anything, the military has only itself to blame for the sub bornness, the enduring stubbornness of the protesters because the
protesters can pick up a calendar and point to street action concession. street action, concession. they cannot be blamed for thinking that the only thing that has produced genuine, serious concessions from the military has been street action. you know, even the current timeline of the military departing in june 2012, that's a result of the hugely unpopular november clashes. but what we're heading into, rob is very, is correct in that the election, the flawed but largely successful and no one can say it was an insincerely run election and well attended does change the map and does change their legitimacy and does effect a lot, you know, much of the country as he said agrees with what the protesters want, most of what the protesters want but just want some stability and calm.
now's not the time. what's the difference between if military leaves on february 15th or if military leaves on june 15th. is that five month really worth holding up the country like this. and that's a very persuasive argument. and now as far as internal protester dynamics, this alliance between the brotherhood and the military, it's been coming for a long time. they've been flirting for a while and had their quarrels, etc. but now we're seeing it made tangible where the brotherhood is now -- the government from the other protesters. so it's interesting to see that final piece click into place. and i'm curious to see where it goes from here. but that's, it's been coming for a while, but that's new territory. >> i think that's a very important point that ashraf makes about -- and it goes to what i was trying to say about how nobody really knows how to
play the game. i think the scaf has been extraordinarily inwe at no time because it could have made a lot of the concessions before the protests which would have undermined and undercut the relevance. but as he says, every time they've reacted it would embolden the protesters and discredit the military. up until now the muslim brotherhood has been in a win/win situation, i'm not sure how long it will last. they're causing chaos on the street, so they also appeal to those egyptians who want normalcy. i think that's a large reason why they did so well because they were an agent of change and a familiar figure that was in favor of stage. and they've -- stability. and they've been able to take advantage when the protesters extract concessions from the military, they've benefited. there's more power turned over to civilians, that's benefited the muslim brotherhood. so they've been able to both placate the military and take advantage of the concessions of the protesters without themselves having to clash with the military. as i say, i don't know how long that lasts because at some point
soon they're going to hold the reins of power, they're going to be responsible, people are going to turn to them when things are not going well in the economy, in security or in any other area. but so far i think they've been quite astute, having learned over the years how to deal with adversarial conditions, so they've been, i think they've been able to play that game quite well. >> and one very quick i wanted to add as far as the military/brotherhood relationship in that, you know, the brotherhood is counting on holding the military to this, to this timetable of departure on june and in june 2012. i remember being in suez on election day and interviewing a voter, and, you know, he was wearing a freedom and justice party pin, a muslim brotherhood party pin. and i flat out asked him, do you trust the military. and he gives me this huge smile, and he's like, you know what? i don't need to trust them. it's not relevant whether or not i trust the military. the implication there is if they
tag their feet on this -- drag their feet on this june 2012 thing, we'll all just go back to tahrir. they're not losing sleep over that because they know they've got the stick. >> right. but i think, also, the complication becomes that you have this elected parliament, um, and i think the people who are looking to the elected parliament, i think -- i don't think that the, the scaf wants o retain the executive powers. >> no. >> i think it will turn over. but the question becomes how much power will they, will they retain. the attempt to, um, stay, to delay the transfer of, the transfer of power to a civilian president and holding of the elections for that, um, the attempt to delay it, i think, is to control the constitution making process or have some control of it. to retain their major interests. and i think that the brotherhood
is, you know, perhaps willing to allow the scaf to retain powers in foreign affairs, ultimate powers to have the immunity, to have, um, control over the budget. and so it will allow the scaf to do that. and so, but the question i have is, um, there is clearly a mounting dissent in the public against scaf's continued control. and if they continue to maintain that control and the brotherhood is seen to be aligning with them, um, will the parliament lose legitimacy? and what kind of democratizing role can it play in the contested atmosphere? and just to point out some of the developments that occurred,
hand sa by who is a liberal member of parliament is proposing a resolution to allow the olding of elections -- holding of elections in april in order that the power be transferred by may 1st to a civilian president so that the constitution-making process isn't completely in military hands. and so there are liberal members of parliament that walked out of the session yesterday, um, because of their complaint that the speaker of the house who is from the freedom and justice party, the muslim brotherhood party, was biased in his deliberation and who he was allowing to speak. so, i mean, there is a small chance that the parliament will be -- and be the protesters maintain a sit-in in front of the parliament. there is a chance that it will
lose it legitimacy -- >> parliament. >> the parliament, in this contested environment. um, is that analysis, does it make sense in your mind? um, what, what is the support that the parliament enjoys in egypt now? >> at this point i think there's a lot of hope for them. i'm not sure if there's a lot of faith, but there's a lot of hope. and they are the product of, as we said, a flawed but not insincerely run and well attended election. they are the product of, you know, by default but the best election egypt has had in how many decades. so that brings them quite a bit of legitimacy. it's going to be raucous, it's going to be a mess. these are people who, don't forget, no matter how well intentioned everybody is, these are people who don't have that much experience as democrats. i mean, the brotherhood for all their decades of struggling, they're, you know, they don't have a democratic structure, you
know? internally necessarily. and they're not going to -- people are going to probably have temper tantrums and fall out with each other and mistake the natural processes of a democratic coalition-building experiment and take things personally when they probably shouldn't take things personally. it's going to be messy for a while. >> just two points. first, i've always looked at sort of not just the fact that few news ya i inspired egypt, but a lot of the problems you have in egypt are a magnified version. there's a lot of fighting in parliament, demonstrations, so all that. i think it's absolutely right, we're going to see that's inevitable. how people are going to react to the military's -- not attempt to control as you said, i think
they'd be very happy not to have to deal with what is going to be an extraordinarily challenging economic -- >> yeah, they don't want the headache. >> who does? i don't know why they'd want -- what they want to maintain are some of the prerogatives. immunity from prosecution, clearly. no taxation towards their economic activities. maintain their economic activities. the secrecy of their budget. and an overall leadership in foreign policy and national security affairs. my sense is if it were simply left up to the muslim brotherhood based on what aye heard from them, they could live with that, number one, because they're realistic and a lot of these things, you know, don't really think undermine their power. but also, again, as i said, they have a long view of history. okay. two years, three years, five years, a decade, sooner or later, i mean, they have in mind several examples around the region. they don't want to be algeria in the early '90s when the military got so afraid of a possible victory of the islamic south asian front that there was
a coup and massive repression, number one. they don't want to be like hamas either where they're isolated, they can't govern, the international community tries to boycott them, so they want to have a coalition. they look at turkey. it took the akp many years, but today the military's in it place -- many of them in prison or at least going to be tried -- if it takes them years, they can do it. they've been in the underground for so long now. now, the question you asked which is, i think, a pertinent one is will the people on the street and other places start complaining and saying this isn't good for us? in a way, as i said, the muslim brother hood could win either way. they could have an agreement between the military and the political forces, they could probably also live with an acceleration of the transition and some of these prerogatives not being handed over so long as they feel like it doesn't provoke reaction by the military that's going to compromise and jeopardize their hard-earned gains. >> then i think the question, one question is if they maintain
these prerogatives, can there be the kinds of changes that will be, the economic changes, the changes in the security forces? um, these important, the opening of the media, um, will you be able to have these sort of institutional changes that signal to the people that, in fact, it's a new era? >> ideally, what we're going to need to see, we're focusing on sort of the macro stuff between the relationship of the government and the military and the control of the military's budget, but there are smaller revolutions that need to happen that would be significant victories, a genuine anti-corruption campaign, a genuine attempt to weed out deadwood and neptistic hires from the government, a genuine attempt to instill responsible, actual journalistic ethics within the media or just shut down, you know, the places like
state television. you know, i'm of the opinion that there should not be a ministry of information, but that might be too much to expect. um, i'm big on interior ministry reform. you know, one of my -- i've been trying to sort of figure out my list of metrics for how to judge the progress of the revolution, and topping my list is civilian oversight over the interior minister. an interior minister who is not some career general who owes 30 years of favors to the other career generals and probably they all have secrets on each other. and it's just unhealthy. a civilian, an outsider interior minister. and when you talk the police officers, they always say that it's hilarious because i think they all went to the same class on this. they all say, well, would you want a minister of health who's not a doctor? that wouldn't make sense. no, i'm not buying it. it's a civilian interior minister sent there by, you
know, elected government with a popular mandate to clean the stables. fire whoever you need to fire and change the culture. and that's top three of things that need to happen regardless of what happens between the brotherhood and the military. >> and i think that, you know, there's a question of how is that going to happen and at what point. >> and they're going to be very reus about the to it. >> -- resistant to it. >> so let's change and talk about the brotherhood and the freedom and justice party and the chances that it may fragment given their intention or what appears to be their movement towards aecom tating, accommodation with the scaf. you know, we can't say that the freedom and justice party is a monolith. there are generational differences that have been noted. certainly, there must be some
muslim brotherhood members that were protesting in tahrir. you know, as there are fragments generally at the macro level of egyptian societies, one would assume there would be fragmentation within the brotherhood and what impact will that have in terms of the political dynamics in the country? ashraf, what do you think the chances are for fragmentation? >> i think the fragmentation is already happening. it started immediately after february 13th, immediately after mubarak's departure. you had members of the youth wing break away and form i think it's called the egyptian current party. and that's, that was founded by dissident, young brothers. you had -- [inaudible] who was a senior brotherhood level who had kind of been marginalized from the brotherhood power structure in the preceding years, and he broke away and is running for
president. and he's kind of, you know, and he's taking his followers with him. so the splintering is already happening and will continue to happen. but the brotherhood is not going anywhere. i mean, they'll draw some new people, they'll lose some people. it's inevitable that -- it's ease is si to keep your unity when there's a big bad that you're trying to topple. after that all the ideological differences come to the fore, maybe the power struggles become more prominent. so it's healthy. but the brotherhood' going to remain a primary player. but the fragmentation, sure, it's happening, and it'll continue. >> i think what's actually quite striking because it's true the fragmentation had begun, and they said they're losing the youth, some of the more modern i lammists, all true. in the end, they performed beyond what i my most experts were saying even a week before the election. so, yes, they've lost some people, but as ashraf said, they
remain by far the strongest magnet. there's so many splinter groups, and is you meet them all the time. they were not able to capitalize on these tensions within the movement. i think, you know it doesn't mean that the muslim brotherhood isn't going to face challenges. just look at hamas. once they start governing, all these contradictions come to the fore, and they also have to compete with what is the right-wing version of islam, and how are they going the position themselves? they want to reassure both nonislamists at home and the west. anyone who meets with them, that's the number one priority. they will tell you everything you want to hear. in my view, they've mastered the art of speaking a lot ask be saying nothing -- and saying nothing. but they are going to have members of parliament who might introduce if it won't embarrass them legislation on social issues, do reassure and risk
alienating our base, or do we risk alienating the west and those in our own country? i think that's going to be a challenge for the muslim brotherhood. i think they're more worried about the sell fates than they are about their own internal problems. >> but, they're not going to take a position on foreign policy issues. are their interests more internal? because i think it's when, um, i think from the perspective of the u.s. when radical islam becomes a problem is when it confronts foreign policy interests. and, you know, will it just be a matter of accommodation between the brotherhood and the sal fists that they can do their thing internally, domestically, socially and then the brotherhood and, you know, the
military authorities can continue to control the foreign policy domain? is it, do you think the calltist bees have an -- >> they might make a run at camp david in some form or at least into modified camp david. that would be crowd pleasing, i think. but beyond that, no, i think they're going to focus on a domestic agenda. and rob points out a very interesting dynamic that could come forward in that they could really embarrass the brotherhood in many ways and put them in uncomfortable positions and that you, you know, you bring forth some sort of domestic legislation that brings the country in line with whatever they think the sharia is. and you put the brotherhood in position of alienating the west and the secular liberal coalition partners by vote, by siding with this, or you put the brotherhood in a position of doing something that they can
then say is not islamic, you know? and say, oh, no, power has changed them. they've gone soft on islam. you know, it's going to be fascinating. i'm kind of looking forward to watching this all play out. it's going to be amazing. >> i would say, though, having -- you know, i do think that could be. right now we're not seeing it. i met the leadership in december and in january. >> okay. >> the progress -- progress. the evolution in a month was extraordinary. they've become the muslim brotherhood what it took them years and years to become, a moderate, reassuring face. >> they've been taking crash courses. >> absolutely. in december i met with a leader, and the answers he gave me were, you know, i wasn't spirally clear, and i asked him if i were sitting with your muslim brotherhood counterpart, what would be the difference? he said the difference would be the muslim brotherhood would be lying. rights of women, democracy, they don't really believe it. we don't know if we believe it.
we have tensions within our movement, it happened so quickly, so some of us think, yes, we like democracy because it gives us a voice. do we really believe it's the right form of government? we're going through the learning process. two weeks ago i meet the leadership, all the right answers from a western perspective. yes, women. we don't impose sharia on anyone, it's an individual decision. we're not going to touch camp david. as you say, pr classes but at warp speed. it was very impressive to see how quickly they became those who they were denouncing only a few weeks earlier. >> no, this is going to be fascinating to watch. the sell fists especially, they're the wildcard. these guys have not really had a live mic on them, and now they've got their own tv channels, they're being interviewed live on television, they're on the parliament floor. so, you know, having to build coalitions. so it's going the kind of be fun to watch. >> um, yes, i just want to, i
guess we have a very enthusiastic, anxious audience, so i was going to just give us another five minutes. i just wanted to ask a little bit about u.s. foreign policy, um, and whether or not the u.s. has a role in egypt now and, you know, given the internal dynamics which as you say are very interesting, um, and that will be interesting to watch, um, should the u.s. just play sort of a hands-off role and let egypt, let the egyptian politics sort of take their own turn? um, is that even possible given the u.s. support for the, you know, very strong, large support military assistance for egypt? what, you know, what is the perception of egyptians, and what is your sense of what role the u.s. can play?
>> no, it's a good question. i mean, definitely, the u.s. is right to be treading carefully because -- and i'm sure during the revolution there was a lot of kind of debate, trepidation of where do we, what do we say even if we, the u.s., are pro-revolution, if coming out pro-revolution could hurt the revolution. and i'm sure there was a lot of, you know, i always suspected and rob might have more insight into this that, you know, in and around the military's much-lauded and much-praised decision to not fire on civilian protesters, aye always suspected -- i've always suspected there was a lot of very quiet, very firm u.s. arm twisting on that or just a kind of a quiet don't you dare even think about it from washington. um, so, you know f -- if that really happened, i'm grateful for it. what should the u.s. do going
forward? i'm sure it's very confusing, and i would kind of fall back to some of these metrics that i'm trying to devise as far as how do you judge a successful or stable post-revolutionary landscape? and i think among the u.s. priorities is pushing a genuine internal ministry reform. b, civil society, leaving civil society to grow without hindrance, without harassment, and that's obviously what's happening right now. my biggest concern, obviously, in washington the big deal is the attack on the ngos. and we're always mentioning iri, ndi, freedom house. there's a whole host of egyptian ngos that got raided on that day as well. and long after iri and ndi get their files back and everyone hails a new era for egyptian/u.s. relations, these
egyptian ngos might be completely screwed. they might never get their files back. they might have had their work set back a decade. and i just hope that the administration keeps that in mind and keeps a very sharp eye on leaving civil society to grow naturally without harassment. >> and to focus on the transitional reform that needs to happen. >> i'm sure we're going to get into more of u.s. policy in the question and answer, but a point about relevance and then a point about effectiveness. um, you know, it's not entirely clear to me how much relevance the u.s. is going to have. i think it goes to the point ashraf was making about the rediscovery of domestic politics. political leaders in egypt are fixated much more on the street and domestic political opinion than they are on what's happening in the corridors of power in washington. very unlike the time of mubarak where the relationship with the u.s. was a pillar of legitimacy. today that's not the case. so i think you're going to find, and i think the u.s. has already
found to its detriment that it doesn't have the kind of pull, or you wouldn't see the thing that's happening with the ngos. precisely at a time when the egyptians need foreign assistance, they're doing that. it really tells you what they care about in terms of the balance between what they hear in washington, what they hear on the streets of egypt. as an anecdote, i was doing a radio show, and there was an egyptian, very well informed was on it, and it was a today in november when at 3 in the morning i think the white house put out a statement criticizing the scaf for the violence against protesters. and at one point the egyptian journalist was asked, i think she was actually a journalist and politician, what did you think of the u.s. statement? she said i know there was an e.u. statement, i think there was another statement, i didn't even know there was a u.s. statement which was -- and i know the u.s. labored for hours about how to calibrate this statement. i think it said something about how less relevant the u.s. is. but then there's a question of effectiveness and one thing that
really struck me on this last trip, and you hear it all the time, and every time i hear it it's hard for me to believe it, but the scaf and many other egyptians believe it so much that i can't dismiss it. they're convinced that the u.s. is engagessed in a conspiracy to weaken, to fragment, to undermine egypt's power. and that was certainly mubarak's view, i think, at the end of his tenure, but it's the view of the military establishment and perhaps more, that today what you're seeing on the street is very much a u.s. attempt -- you know, part of this is they want to blame an outsider. but i happen to believe that it's also a genuine belief they can. they can't imagine all this wouldn't have happened without some foreign hand, and the most convenient or most credible foreign hand in their eyes is the u.s. the u.s. also has a very mixed, is a generous word, reputation among other egyptians. so you're not seeing egyptians today rushing to ask the u.s. to intervene more, even on the ngo
issue. >> yeah. >> there was a piece the other day pointing out, and many of the egyptians we met were more critical of the ngos than they were the scaf. not just the balancing of it own interest, but because it has the legacy of an extremely negative reputation having to do with its policies in egypt, it policies in the region. and that means that sometimes what it's going to say going to backfire because those both in power and public opinion are going to react against what the u.s. says not because of the content, but because of their perception and the, the problems of reputation the u.s. has. >> okay. we have a very anxious member of the audience here. let's give her the mic first. >> thank you very much. barbara slain from the atlantic council. i want to talk about egypt's role in the region. it's interesting they would say the u.s. is trying to undermine egypt's role since egypt hasn't
had much of a role in the last few years. so the question is can it play a role regionally, what factors do you see that might actually cause it to be able to overcome this domestic turmoil and play a role regionally? if israel attacks gaza again and kills a lot of palestinians, will there be pressure to do something about the peace treaty? if israel attacks iran, will there be pressure to do something about the peace trity, or can we expect this year it's israel focused and desperately trying to get its affairs in order? >> no, i think it's going to be a little bit of both. i think on the one hand it's true that egypt is much more internally focused, and the fact that the recent peace talks if that's what they're called are taking place in jordan tells you something about diminishing egyptian weight which as you point out is nothing new. so i think it's going to take some time. i think for now is main power egypt has is a negative form of power, sort of the power of the
weak as people used to describe as it comes to the palestinians. when you go to israel and ask the israeli officials about what leeway they have to do things in gaza, for example, they say -- their main concern is how egypt will react. not that egypt is going to react by, you know, military action, but they're going to be forced because of public opinion to cut diplomatic relations, to bolster their ties with the palestinians, and they don't want right now to have yet more problems we egypt. so they're afraid egypt because of it own public opinion is going to have to take much more assertive stances. so when there was the attack several months ago and there was speculation about whether israel would reenter gads saw, the us -- gaza, the key factor that led them to be more restrained in their reaction was they were afraid of how a weak egyptian regime would react. and i think that's going to be true for some time. at some point egypt will recover its role. ashraf, when he speaks in his
book and today about how a lot of this was egyptians trying to recover their dignity, i think there was an aspect of the sense of what role is egypt playing in the region now. what humiliation, embarrassment is it that we now are a bit player when qatar and others are playing a much bigger role? i think that time will come. i once saw it would come more quickly than i do now, i think it's going to take a while for egypt to recover it natural role. but sooner or later it will come. >> i think that egypt moving forward, it might take a while. they might be kind of self-obsessed and domestically focused for a while. but i think a reforming egypt could play a very positive role in the region. i think egypt has been one of the factors dragging the region backwards for a decade plus. um, so, an egypt that's built around rule of law and a